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Marketing to the U.S. Government

The idea that print is dead has been popular since the early 90′s. People have been saying it long before it was actually true, and until the last 10 years newspaper subscriptions were still a popular item. This is no longer the case and has of course led most traditional print newspapers to bolster their web presence and deliver news in many different formats.  Tradeshows, another traditional marketing tool, have also been on the decline although not anywhere near to the degree that print media is. It should come as no surprise that the U.S. government, a deliberate and very slow moving entity, still responds to these marketing avenues.

Market Connections, a comprehensive B to B market research service founded in 1996, did a federal media and marketing study in 2012. What they found surprised even them. It seems traditional marketing is still the most effective way to reach decision-makers in the US government. The most viable marketing channels for this group seem to be tradeshows and print media. Although federal decision-makers read digital media as well, print is still the bigger player.

Lisa Dezzutti, the president and CEO of market connections, said that”government decision-makers still consume information through traditional print outlets. Print is not dead”. She added “As such, when developing marketing campaigns it is important advertisers not abandon their print campaigns”.

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The Market Connections study aggregated Internet-based news, mobile, social media, radio, television, and print media as it is used by federal employees. Over 3700 decision-makers participated in the study. This is the largest study of its kind to date.

The study showed that government decision-makers are:

  • Slowly moving away from print, but most prefer a combination of print and other media
  • LinkedIn is increasing as an information source
  • Facebook as an information source is decreasing
  • Tradeshows and conference attendance is increasing
  • More than one third report reading blogs for information

It is clear from this study that while businesses in the private sector are scrambling away from print media, and to a lesser degree tradeshows, the government is still deeply involved in both. And this is no small matter to any company wanting to sell to the government as those pockets are deep. Government contracts can make or break a business, and the amount of money the government spends in the private sector is staggering. In 2008 the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act earmarked $800 billion to be spent in various “make work” programs across the US. This is a single moment in time. Over an entire year the government is going to spend much more, and businesses in the private sector can benefit from this if they can reach the decision-makers. Clearly traditional marketing must be a big part of this.

So what are the popular tradeshows that the federal money spenders are attending? Well it’s not as easy as finding a list of tradeshows that you know the government’s going to be interested in.

Marketing to the government can be very complicated and involves several steps including:

  • Understanding procurement processes
  • Identifying the specific business industry classification code
  • Identifying your specific North American industry classification system code
  • Determine your small business standard code if applicable

Not surprisingly there are an incredible number of regulations governing the solicitation of the U.S. government and their contracting process. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is designed to unify all procurement practices for the federal government, and allows the individual agencies within the government to supplement the overall regulations.

It is impossible to include all of the information that is required to do business with the government in a single article. For more information about this please visit sbtdc.org.

Jon T. Norwood is an avid blogger and contributes to Internet Service on a regular basis. He is also a managing partner at web exordium, and marketing company that focuses on SEO solutions.

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